Gavin Henson joins England Rugby World Cup aces in brain injury legal claim

Charlotte Church’s ex-partner and former Wales back Gavin Henson has joined a number of England legends in taking legal action against rugby’s governing bodies after suffering brain injury symptoms. The likes of Phil Vickery and Mark Regan, who helped England to win the World Cup in 2003, are among 295 players seeking damages from World Rugby, the RFU and the Welsh Rugby Union.

All three players were on a list of 226 names published on Friday after lawyers asked for reporting restrictions regarding their anonymity to be lifted at the high court in London. Former England scrum-half Harry Ellis and ex-Wales captain Colin Charvis are other prominent names on the list, which consists of many retired players from the early 2000s.

The group are seeking damages from World Rugby, the RFU and WRU, who have been accused of negligence and failing in their duty of care by not implementing reasonable measures to protect health and safety. All three bodies strongly refute the claims and have criticised the players’ legal teams for withholding medical records and delaying the case.

It comes after the court ruled the players must wait until next year for their application for a group litigation order (GLO) to be decided. Jeremy David Cook, the senior master in the case, argued that it was not possible to grant the application without having detailed medical records of the 295 players involved.

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“Unless the medical records are prepared properly, we’re going to have a lot of issues,” said Cook. “The very least one needs in a case of this kind is medical records. In an individual injury case, the first thing you ask for in order to verify someone’s history is a proper medical report.

“There is a process and it must be fair. When one produces a condition and prognosis report, one must supply a medical history. It seems to me that it is absolutely basic. There is no liability without causability injury.”

The case relates to the players in question suffering from neurological issues, which they blame on playing the sport. It is one of three similar cases brought forward by legal firm Rylands Garth, which also represents former rugby league and football players.

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A number of retired players have been diagnosed with early onset dementia since hanging up their boots, with former England hooker Steve Thompson revealing in 2020 that he could no longer remember his side’s World Cup win. Meanwhile, ex-Wales flanker Ryan Jones said last year that his ‘world is falling apart’ after being diagnosed with the condition aged just 41.

Following the announcement of the 226 names, a joint statement was issued by World Rugby, the RFU and WRU in which they expressed sympathy with the players but underlined their collective frustration with yet another delay in the case.

The statement read: “Legal action prevents us from reaching out to support the players involved, many of whom are named publicly for the first time today. But we want them to know that we care deeply about their struggles, that we are listening and that they are members of the rugby family.

“The court’s ruling for the second time that the claimants’ solicitors must provide information previously asked for is a positive step. The further delay to the case is regrettable and the players’ lawyers seemingly prioritising media coverage over meeting their legal obligations is challenging for all concerned, not least the players themselves.”

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